The woman who provided the original voice for Apple’s Siri said she literally had no idea her voice was even being used at the time> Susan Bennett is basically the Siri queen, but she only got her big break in 2005 by complete accident.
Perhaps surprisingly, Bennett wasn’t even a professional voiceover artist. In fact, she was working at a music studio in Atlanta at the time. The actor who was going to do the job never showed up, so she did the gig for a software company.
“I got into voiceover acting by accident,” Susan Bennett told Insider of her Siri role. “I used to sing jingles for commercials, and I worked out of a few studios in Atlanta. One day, while I was there recording, a voice actor for another commercial didn’t show up.”
“When we were finished with the song, the owner of the studio said, ‘Susan, you don’t have an accent. Come over here and record this copy. It went well, I got a voice coach, and that was the beginning of it all.”
Of course, Siri wasn’t released until 2011, so Bennett’s first recording job wasn’t for that job at the time. However, those first recordings were later purchased by Apple and used for Siri.
Susan Bennett didn’t get paid for voicing Siri
“I made the recordings that would eventually be used for the famous personal assistant, but I had no idea at the time,” she recalled. “I got a gig to record for the IVR (interactive voice response) company ScanSoft, now called Nuance. I thought the script would consist of regular IVR sayings, like ‘thanks for calling,’ or ‘please dial one.’”
“Instead, I had to read nonsensical sentences like ‘cow hoist in the tug hut today’ or ‘say shift fresh issue today’ — they were trying to get all of the sound combinations in the English language. They also had me read the names of addresses and streets.”
After recording at home for 20 hours a week for a month, the job was done. Bennett didn’t think any more of it until about six years later.
“Six years later, a fellow voice actor emailed me and said, ‘hey, we’re playing around with this new iPhone — isn’t this you?’” Bennett shared. “I had no idea what they were talking about. I went straight to Apple’s website to listen and knew immediately that it was my voice.”
Sadly, Susan Bennett didn’t get paid a single cent for becoming the voice of Siri. However, because she didn’t have a contract, she also never signed an NDA. That meant she could use her strange claim to fame to get more work.
“We began to promote ourselves. I’ve been featured on TV shows, given a TEDx Talk, and spoken on the radio,” she said. “It’s not something I ever would’ve seen myself doing 15 years ago, but it’s been really fun.”
The next time to ask Siri for some help, make sure to think of (and thank) Susan Bennett!